Review: Jaws

By Peter Benchley
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400064564, Originally published 1974, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Nearly 40 years old and it STILL gives me goosebumps!

The Rest of It:

Last year or the year before, my student assistant told me that she had never heard of JAWS. I was rambling on about movies and when she said that, I stopped mid-sentence, looked the movie up on Netflix and gave her orders to see that weekend.

Did she listen? No. But, it was at that moment that I remembered the book. I had not read the book before and thought it might make a good summer read and boy, did it! As perfect as a book about a man-eating shark can be! The story takes place right before the July 4th holiday, in a small beach community called Amity. The presence of a shark, made evident by the aftermath left behind, forces city officials to close the beach during one of the busiest weekends of the summer. As you can imagine, most of the revenue for such a small town comes from tourists visiting for the summer so the closure of the beach is a big to-do and not a move favored by everyone. As the town digs in to find this shark, a rag-tag group is hastily formed and off they go, in search of the Great White.

The book is actually really, really good. I hate mass marketed copies of anything but if you have a copy lying around, I urge you to dig it out. The pacing is perfect, the tension is just right and there is just enough of a back story to keep you interested.

JAWS - The Movie

That said, there are some major differences between the book and the movie and those differences involve main characters. I won’t go into them because I want you to experience the book for yourself. A friend of mine said that the book is all about the shark but I disagree. We get to know the human characters quite well from the book, whereas in the movie… we are only given a tiny bit of their personal lives.

Still, it was the perfect summer read and even though the movie was different in some ways, I still consider it one of the best movies ever and it’s 35 years old!! So, with July 4th just around the corner, I dare you to take a dip!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

38 thoughts on “Review: Jaws”

  1. Ah, you’ve finally read it! I still remember how excited you were about it 🙂
    The movie is goddam scary, but I have never met a scary book-movie that wasn’t based upon an even scarier book. Case in point- Cujo, The Silence of The Lambs…
    So I’m certainly going to find and read this.

    1. I just saw the uncut version this past weekend. It wasn’t scary by today’s standards but the uncut version has one brutal scene that looked pretty realistic for its time.

  2. I never could watch the whole movie but may just try the book. I can’t believe your assistant had never heard of Jaws. That movie scared us all away from the beach the summer it came out.

    1. I’ve seen TV versions of Jaws too many times to count but the other day it was on a movie channel and I recorded it. It was uncut and VERY graphic at one point. I was like… oh… I guess I had forgotten how graphic that part was. The book is more subtle but some of the scenes are even more descriptive. Such a page turner though! I was done with it in no time.

  3. Read book about the same time the movie came out. Remember thinking that the book was WAY better, because it went deeper into the characters and their psychological motivations…

    Probably one of the best summer reads of all time, to this day.

    1. I’ve always been a tad afraid of ocean swimming anyway so it’s not like reading this book made it any worse. LOL. I just loved the whole setting. The whole package, really.

  4. I read Jaws long time ago and it was a great read. I also loved how the author described how the shark was feeling and what it was thinking. The sequel was just as good.

    1. I thought there would be more of the shark in the book but I did enjoy the shark’s perspective when it was given. It gave the story an entirely different feel.

      I just love books like this though. Ones that totally take you away from the day to day stuff.

  5. What I great summer read, Ti! I remember seeing the movie and then reading the book, which was quite scary. Maybe it’s time to read it again.

    1. I timed it just right because I read it AND saw the movie again right before July 4th and that is the sametime frameas the book! I felt as if I was right there in Amity.

  6. This is a good review. I mean, after the excitement of the movie, and the music, I’d think the book would not be able to present as vividly. But apparently it can! I’m spending summer (July anyway) in Paris … that should be quite safe, especially virtually. 😉

    1. Yes. You should be safe in Paris! LOL.

      The book was surprisingly good. The plot points are handled differently in the movie so it’s a bit different than what you saw on film, but still very well done.

  7. Jaws is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again! I remember begging my mom to buy me that book when I was about 12 years old, but I never did read it…maybe it is time! I probably still have it somewhere!

    1. If you have it, you should pull it out. Yes, it’s about a man eating shark but the little town and all the beach stuff… I swear I could smell the Coppertone and feel the sea spray upon my face.

  8. I loved the book when I read it many moons ago…and I remember the differences, which I thought made the book about so much more than just a man-eating shark. I think I’ll see if I can find a copy of this one somewhere to re-read. The movie, while pull your feet up into your seat at the movie theatre scarey then, is laughable now with the whole mechanical shark thing going on :p

    1. I saw a documentary on the making of Jaws and Spielberg said most of the under water shots were added because the mechanical shark was never working!! There was supposed to be a lot more of the shark in action but the technology just wasn’t there back in the day. I think the POV shots from the water were the most effective scenes by far. Well, except for that one scene with Quint. Ugh!

  9. I have seen the movie, but never experiences the book, so this sounds like the perfect opportunity to me. It will be a neat experience because I live near a beach where there are always some small sharks near the shore, if you get there in the right season. I bet watching them and reading this book would be a surreal experience!

  10. I would never have thought to pick this one up – I have that same aversion to mass-market books, I guess. Now I’m going to have to add this one to the wish list and rethink my bias.

  11. that is one movie I will never forget; Bravo for the refresher on the book. perfect for summer beach bathers….LOL

  12. Great review, brought back many memories for me of both the book and the movie. Will try a reread but as its the middle of winter over here, I will wait until Dec/January when it will be summer!

  13. “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” — Brody. Oh it’s great: book, movie, era …. glad you enjoyed

  14. I hadn’t realized until you mentioned that you were going to read this that it was a book. It sounds really good though! I will definitely keep this in mind for sometime this summer or next!

  15. It so depresses me when younger men and women don’t know iconic books or movies such as Jaws and then, on top of that, don’t take our recommendations to heart.

    I admit, although I’ve seen JAWS numerous times, it’s sadly never occurred to me to read the book. Thanks to you, Ti, I will read that book as soon as I can. I know JAWS is a book I’ll love. I’ve read Peter Benchley’s White Shark (don’t bother) and The Beast (very good) so I don’t know why it never occurred to me to read JAWS. Your review makes me excited about this book. I’m happy to know that the book differs from the movie in some parts just so I don’t know the entire story.
    It’s a good thing I don’t swim in the ocean, though because reading JAWS would put an end to that. Knowing me, I’ll have problems in swimming pools for a while (I’m terrible…or very good, depending on your point of view…at psyching myself out!)

    Great review, Ti! Thanks! And especially thank you for advising that this is one instance when a mass market paperback should be read. I really don’t like them!

    1. I hope you do read it soon. I haven’t read his other books but I may check them out. It’s a good way to break up the heavier stuff.

  16. Nope, not gonna happen. I have to look at the ocean every day and I just don’t want to think about what’s swimming around out there. 😀

  17. I didn’t know the movie was based on a book. It’s not surprising, I suppose. I have never seen the movie (or read the book). Maybe someday. 🙂

  18. I bet the book is good! I remember when my parents came home after seeing this movie. It was raining out and they got scared when they stepped in a puddle!! 😀 Watching the movie now makes me laugh a little because you can totally tell that the shark is mechanical but back when I was a teen….scared the poop out of me!

  19. I read this sitting on the beach a couple of years ago in Western Australia, in summer…. it was perfect! I had chills runnin gup my spine the whole time and the beach setting made it even better

    1. I SO wanted to go to the viewing that Netflix had of Jaws at Martha’s Vineyard one summer. That is there the film was shot. How cool that would have been?

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